Onions are a standard crop in the garden. At home we planted onion sets and I’ve continued that tradition. For the past decade or more I’ve been planting Stuttgarter sets. These small onion bulbs that you plant in the spring reliably grow into medium size flat bulbs that taste good and are OK in storage.
In addition to sets, I’ve also been trying to grow onions from seeds for the past few years. I plant the seeds inside in February and then transplant the seedlings into the garden in April. The seed onions have never been very successful until this year.
This past winter I started seeds of Candy and Red Defender. These are both hybrid storage onions. Red Defender is a late onion so they’re still growing but I’ve started to harvest the Candy onions and I can’t believe how big they are. The bulbs are between the size of a baseball and a softball. The flesh is perfectly white and the taste is good as well.
So why did the seed onions finally succeed? I think there are three reasons.
1) When the seedlings were growing inside, I made a conscious effort to fertilize them regularly. (If you’ve read some of my other posts, you know that I tend to under-fertilize!) That simple step of fertilizing led to plants that were larger and healthier when they were planted into the garden.
2) While the rabbits in the yard won’t eat chives, they will eat onions. In years past the onion seedlings have often been mowed to the ground by the rabbits. While they would grow back if I protected them, this trauma really set them back and caused the onions to be small.
3) This has been a perfect year for growing vegetables. The weather has been warm but not oppressive and the rain has been regular and consistent. Onions have a shallow root system and if the soil is dry, the bulbs will be small. This year water has been plentiful and the onions are evidence of this fact.
I’m grateful for this year’s onion harvest. I feel like I might have mastered the trick of growing onions from seed. It all comes down to fertilizing, blocking the rabbits and making sure the plants are watered. I’ll certainly be growing onions from seed next year but I’ll still be planting some of the Stuttgarter sets as well – I have a proven track record with growing them!